About Last Night: Arrow “Seeing Red” - Some Kind of Monster
I have often lauded Arrow for handling the aggressive expansion of season 2 in a way that seemed effortless. The show has not so slowly turned from a more overt, socially minded, Nolan-esque series into something decidedly more comic-booky. The limits of Arrow do not end at Starling City limits (where are those btw) they expand to Central City with hints of Blüdhaven and the far off Nada Parbat. Team Arrow has nearly doubled in size with the additions of a resurrected Sara Lance(Caity Lotz) and driven Roy Harper(Colton Haynes).
With all of this new found girth, some fat has developed and other appendages have grown weak. Roy Harper has become more plot device than character, literally in the case of “Seeing Red”. Diggle has receded into the background and while still the moral conscious of the series has been used sparingly, partly due to other contractual obligations. Still the driver has gotten his day twice in two very good Diggle-centric episodes. Arrow has thrown a lot of balls in the air and it isn’t going to nail all of them to the wall. By the end of “Seeing Red” two characters have been written off and one changed with very significant actions taken.
All of this makes “Seeing Red” sound hugely important and impactful, the latter can only be seen in the coming weeks and next season. Overall the “Seeing Red” feels underdeveloped that undercut some of the bigger emotional beats of the episode as it begins to barrel towards the final trilogy of episodes.
Moira Queen has always been a difficult character; I didn’t expect her to make it out of Season 1 alive or at least free. Susanna Thompson has been one of the better actors coming into the series, providing the right amount of soap opera chew. Arrow executive producer Andrew Kreisberg credits the casting of Thompson as “one of our ‘big gets’ early on that really signaled to the audience and to reviewers that this wasn’t your average CW superhero show.” The usefulness of Moira had warn out and at this point proved to be more of an narrative obstacle than everything. How do you create believable drama between hero and mother/villain consistently without being too repetitive?
Kresiberg explains the decision making as “like with Tommy, ‘where is her trajectory going’? In Season 1, she had this incredible secret, that she was part of the Undertaking, and she suffered for it, and went to jail for it, and then we’ve discovered she had an even better secret, which was that Thea is really the daughter of Malcolm Merlyn. When that secret blew up, it split the whole family apart. Obviously we’ve been taking steps to bring people back together again, and when we were talking about the future, it was only going to be powerful if Slade really changed the game by doing something truly monstrous. If Moira wins the mayorship, if she makes up with her kids, what is she? And what is Moira without a giant secret? And if they all forgive her, and then there’s some other giant secret, for us, it sort of felt like we were becoming a soap opera, where it was ‘well yes, you tried to blow up the city, and yes, you lied about this, and now you’ve lied about this other thing!’ It really just sort of felt like, in a way, she could die a hero’s death, and also die this person who was conflicted, because even as she’s saying ‘hey, we have to tell the truth,’ we’re seeing that she’s kept this other horrible secret. You just literally can’t change her, and she literally goes to the grave, despite the fact that she sacrifices herself for her children, which is so amazing,”
The secrete truth of television characters don’t really change. What would House be if it’s titular doctor wasn’t cranky, cynical, and in constant pain? What changes is the audience understanding of a character and Moira Queen has been just about taped out.
Moira is given a heroes death, reaffirming in totality that she was first and foremost a dedicated mother of two. Moira sacrifices herself to Slade Wilson, not seconds after realizing that Wilson had been on the island with Oliver and it all suddenly clicking into place. A near 90 degree crane shot pulls out as Thea weeps over her mother’s body, Ollie trying to crawl closer, a mechanical tick of a heart slowly going away.
The fact that Moira revealed she knew about how Oliver spends his nights should’ve been a red flag that the clock was ticking. But this is only the kind of trivia knowledge that is born out in hindsight and in away could cheapen the actual emotional resonance of mother and son having a moment of actual emotional honesty with one another. “I, know” a simple line with incredible weight.
Sara Lance has been a character that since her return, has been in a curious state of limbo. She is not the canonical Black Canary, that’s her sister, but the writers have created a character that mirrors Oliver so completely that it all feels right. Even as Caity Lotz has to make a terrible pouty face in every scene, she had the opposite of Amell’s woodenness in season 1. The weight of cannon has hung over every action the younger Lance daughter has taken, leading most fans(this one included) to nervously wait for the moment in which Slade drives a katana through her chest. The choice to have her leave Starling by the end of “Seeing Red” is possibly a middle ground that could come off like a half-measure in the end. Oliver’s plea to let him help discover her soul rings true but Arrow hasn’t really shown us Sara constantly resorting to killing as the one and only method of fixing a situation. In most cases such as “Seeing Red” it would have been one possibly correct course of action.
Sara Lance has yet to discover that heroic idealistic hope that Oliver has discovered after the death of Tommy. It was a slow process, one that can be tracked as the Team Arrow triumvirate is slowly put together and Amell becomes less wooden. Watching a stone cold killer for 22 weeks isn’t that interesting no matter how cool the choreography is. For now the loss of Sara as a pupil to save puts Oliver 0-2 in the padawan department. He’s clearly getting better and saving other people from the despair he and Slade Wilson find themselves in is a key component of Olvier’s own personal healing. Luckily there’s still Roy Harper around….just strapped down to a gurney and an absurd rage monster.
The Bits At The End
Song of the Episode “Some Kind of Monster” by Three Days Grace because who hasn’t listened to this in a while. Still love that opening bass line.
A preview of next week’s episode "City of Blood"
Rumor has it the final 3 episodes take place over a single night
Once again Arrow makes an excellent pairing with The Americans (I’ll write about you again someday). This time with it’s absurd use of wigs to signify the “younger” versions of characters. Meaning they just have long hair.
Seriously where dose Slade keep his Katana?